Thank you, Sesame Street

Sometimes, I have no idea what I’m feeling.

That’s why I love the clip I posted of Dave Matthews and Grover yesterday from Sesame Street. At the beginning, neither of them knows what they are feeling. And then, through a song (of course!) they work it out. What a great thing to teach kids.

I never learned that as a kid. It’s only over the past 5 years or so that I have been learning how to identify my feelings. When I was a kid, my family never talked about our feelings. Eventually, I started using food to just numb them out. Thing is, though, you can’t numb just the bad feelings. You end up numbing out everything.

When I started to feel my feelings again, it was such a learning process of sitting with the feeling and figuring it out. Is it anger? Is it hurt? What kind of hurt? Disappointed hurt? Sad hurt? Is it love? Gratitude? Nervous anxiety or fear anxiety? Anger shielding something else?

And then there are feelings that don’t quite have a good word. Combinations of feelings; layers of feelings at the same time. Happy and sad. Anger with love. Laughter through pain. Disappointment with gratitude. Or, like Grover, to make a wish with all your heart and have it not come true. Or, like Dave, to be happy for a friend but just a little bit jealous, too.

I have found myself during emotionally charged conversations needing to say, “can I just take a few minutes? I need to sit and be quiet and figuring out how I’m feeling.”

Yesterday was a rough day. I was overwhelmed with life and not feeling physically well. I texted my sister and said “I need a hug. I just want to cry.” She texted a hug. And, then, I sat and cried for a few minutes. And then I felt a little better.

In the midst of crying, I thought “wow, this is so great.” Five years ago, I would not have been able to do that. To ask for help. To just let go and cry. To understand the emotional need and then fill that need.

And then, that made me laugh at myself just a bit.

I’m glad Sesame Street is there to help kids. And, sometimes, us adults, too.

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A summer of single days

In the middle of this summer, I have made startling discovery. As I try to live my life one day at a time, the anxiety of achieving a future state of happiness has gone away and I am, well, pretty relaxed.

It used to be that days were marked by day, month and season. Weekdays (aka workdays) were dreaded and weekends were celebrated. Rainy months were supposed to be dreary and summer months were eagerly hyped as a time for play.

I have always that found vaguely stressful. There seems to be a lot of pressure placed on the “good times” of weekends and summer to have, well, good times. I always felt that I wasn’t quite doing enough – camping enough, partying enough, have crazy adventures enough.

Here’s the weird thing. As I’ve focused on just living one day at a time, I am finding that those expectations have fallen away and I am learning to appreciate the presents of the present.

Sometimes, I am focused on just one day because that’s all I can manage to think of getting through. It’s kind of relief to know that I don’t have to make things better. I can accept the sadness or loneliness of the day as just one day.

Sometimes, there seems so much that “should” be done that I’m overwhelmed and have to break it down to what I can do just for today.

Sometimes, the day is great and I can enjoy each slow moment of contentment.  I can treasure the little things, express gratitude for my many blessings and laugh and be silly.

As I try to live each single day being the person I want to be in this world rather than some version of me that I think I am supposed to be, I find that there are no wasted days and each comes with its own gifts. I am inspired to keep striving, to pushing my boundaries, to live with my whole heart and to be authentic each day.

This week, I spent what is normally a work day out kayaking with some friends. It didn’t feel strange at all to be not at work. It was just what that day had in store. I have had great days at work. I have had long, lonely weekend days. I have frittered away a sunny day indoors when I should be outside. I have reveled in the return of the rain. I have let the depression win some days (and the potato chips). I have said “no thanks, I’ve camped enough for one summer.” I have treasured quiet coffee chats with friends. I’ve gone to bed before the sun goes down and I have partied late into the night til the sun was coming up again.

And, somewhere in there, I think I stopped living for an imaginary future where I accomplish all my “should” be items. Waiting for a future vacation, or a future weekend. Or a future anything.

And you know what? I’m having a really great summer.

One day at a time.

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The landscape of grief

Grief is a strange and timeless landscape.

Yesterday, the day took a dip and I was again journalling through my thoughts and emotions, back in that familiar landscape of sorrow and disappointment and the struggle to understand life’s twists and unexpected turns.

I know I am making progress. The dips are less frequent, less deep and last less long. Still, there is that little voice that says, “Back here again? Shouldn’t you be over this? What’s wrong with you?”

I am firmly telling that voice to shut up.

Grief takes it’s own sweet time.

It digs deep into your heart and unearths previously unknown places. Places of pure and intense emotion – anger, beauty, collapse, courage. And, in that intimate place of self, there is a strange connection with the ghost of the person who has passed out of your life.

I guess that’s why it’s sometimes hard to let go of grief. Because you also have to let go of that person who you are moving away from and leaving behind. Leave them in the past and move into your future without them.

Leave that version of yourself behind and move into a different future.

It’s a journey we all take alone.

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Music Monday – My Inner Ninja!

Hey yo, I’ve been high and I’ve been real low
I’ve been beaten and broken but I healed though
So many ups and downs, roughed up & clowned
We all got problems, but we deal though

I’m tryin’ to do better now, find my inner peace
Learn my art form, and find my energy
When my backs on the wall, I don’t freeze up
Nah, I find my inner strength and I re-up

My inner ninja!!!!!!!

1 of 59,100

Today is the Sun Run in Vancouver. One of the biggest fun 10K “races” in the world.  It’s raining and I’m thankful that I don’t have to brave the crowds downtown. And while the weeks of physio have resulted in a green light to run again after injuring my knee it’ll be awhile before I am back to 10K. If ever.

I first ran the Sun Run five years ago.  I wrote this piece afterwards but I’ve never shared it. Mostly because it is linked to my issues with food; which I rarely talk about publicly. Today seems like a good day to push through the fear and be proud of my story.

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On April 20, 2008 I ran 10km in the Vancouver Sun Run. One of 59,100 participants. Maybe they all have stories of how they ended up there early on a cold Sunday morning. This is mine.

When I reached out for help in the fall of 2006 I was in a deep well of pain and hopelessness, looking up at a sliver of sky with no idea how to climb out. The food was no longer helping me cope with life and I was unhappy and in despair. With just over two years to go to my 40th birthday, I looked ahead to that milestone with dread and panic. I was barely managing my life now at halfway through. How would I ever manage the next 40 years – if I even had that long?

Gradually, as I began to find the help I needed, I began to have hope again. As I let go of the physical and emotional weight, I began to believe that I could actively live the life I wanted to live, rather than only dreaming about it.

I remembered how much I used to love to run as a child – the sense of freedom, of motion, of feeling how alive my body was.  I had dreamt through my 30’s of running the Sun Run the year I turned 40 in April, 2009.

I began to think I could make my running dream come true as well.  Having not run for over 20 years, I thought I’d start trying at 39, just in case I “failed” and needed a second try to make it.

It took me 3 days to sign up for the Learn to Run clinic at my local community centre. Three days of feeling the fear of potential failure, three days of berating myself for not doing it and three days of trying to be gentle and encouraging with myself rather than harshly self-judgmental.

The first night of the clinic, a friend had to “talk me in” as I headed to class – scared, nervous and unsure of myself. I worried that I would be the slowest person, that I wouldn’t be able to do it, that the clinic leaders wouldn’t want to stay at the back of the pack with me, that others would judge and think that I shouldn’t be there. I worried about how I looked, what I was wearing, what I sounded like as I was running and whether anyone would want to run with me and be my friend.  Somehow, I made it through the first night.

In between weekly classes, I ran twice during the week on my own. I ran at night in the dark so that no one could see me. I kept to the back streets and off the main roads so that other runners and car drivers wouldn’t look at me. But, I kept running and I kept going to class.

One night, about 6 weeks into the clinic, I was really struggling with the group run. I had a cold and as I huffed and puffed along with all my fears and worries weighing me down, I just wanted to quit. To give up and not have to work so hard.

But, that night, in the sky overhead, there was a rare and awe-inspiring sight. A total eclipse of the moon. While we were running, the clouds had dispersed and I had a beautiful view of the full moon as it gradually turned red and darkened into the eclipse. A full moon is a time of energy full and rich with potential. And a lunar eclipse marks a period of profound transformational change that in the past, was viewed with fear.

As I ran under this powerful sign, I realized that my journey of running – as with my journey of healing – is one of powerful transformational change. And that it is often hard, sometimes really hard, and sometimes scary. But, that my running journey with its physical transformation and my spiritual journey, with its emotional transformation are both worth the effort because I am worth the effort.

With that realization, I took that giant bundle of fear and worry and self-hatred that was weighing me down and left it at the edge of the road and ran onward both lighter and freer. I ran for me, for the joy of running and moving my body, for my health and because I wanted to make this dream – and all my dreams – reality.

A few weeks later, a woman in the running clinic said to me, “I love running behind you, you set such a steady pace.” Surprised, and not realizing that anyone was actually behind me, I replied, “I just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.”

And at that moment, I realized that my method, which had lead to running success, was equally applicable to all the aspects of my life. Transformational change happens one small step at a time at its own pace. It is my journey, and it happens in my own time and speed and rhythm.

On April 20, 2008, I ran the Vancouver Sun Run. One of 59,100 runners, I ran it just for me, at my own pace, one step at a time, joyous and free.

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The balance of my day

Yesterday was the vernal equinox and the Universe sent me a message.

It’s coming on Spring here in the northern hemisphere and yesterday was the day of equal parts light and dark. And the Universe decided that I needed this message really driven home.

It started off in the darkness of an early morning dentist appointment to fix my first ever cavity. Apparently, I have sticky grooves. (aside – wouldn’t that be an awesome name for a band?!)

So, my first ever filling. And my first time with freezing. Sigh. The end of a perfect streak.

I have long loved the fact that I have made it into my 40s without a cavity. I completely realize that this is just a fluke of genetics and not anything to do with my superior brushing and flossing technique (NOT). But it was that thing I could always cite whenever I had to answer “what’s the one thing no one knows about you” or some such nonsense of an ice-breaker exercise.

But then, an unexpected light in the dark. No freezing, no filling. Just a little scraping and a sealant and I was all done. And, a bonus of fixing my slightly jagged-edge bottom front teeth to smooth perfection. Nicely balanced, Universe!

Not so fast, said the Universe. You may technically be cavity free but the day is just starting!

Stopped for a coffee on the way to work and coming out of the coffee shop I spectacularly wiped out on the grassy boulevard that separated me from my car. Well, I should call it the giant muddy boulevard although I think most of the mud ended up all up my pants and back. Not content to drive home it’s point, the Universe had to choose right in front of the coffee shop for my muddy demise. You know, where EVERYONE could watch me do a slow slide into the swamp of no return.

And then the balance turned when a very nice stranger stopped to see if I was okay. And told me a joke that made me laugh. I don’t know who that guy was but I’m thanking the Universe for sending him my way. After a mad dash home and a change of clothes all the way down to my muddy underwear I raced into work and made it just in time for my first meeting. And, I won a free coffee.

And so the day went. It poured rain and then was gloriously sunny. I am swamped with work to the point of chucking the whole thing in when I am unexpectedly headhunted for another job, making me realize how much I love my work and that (apparently) someone noticed. Physio is increasing to twice a week but I somehow managed not to add injury to my knee with my mudslide.

LIfe in balance. The good with the bad. The things that make me so frustrated and the things that make me shake my head and laugh. The hard work and the random rewards. The anger and the gratitude.

I get it, Universe. And I will strive to remember it. Even when I’m lying in the mud.

Now, off to find the other members of Sticky Grooves.

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On the subject of potholes

Autobiography in Five Chapters

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

‘Autobiography in Five Chapters’ was written by Portia Nelson (1920 – 2001) and quoted in “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”